Belfast Telegraph

Coleraine old boy McVey living Linfield dream

By Graham Luney

Linfield had mixed fortunes when they cast admiring glances at two Coleraine players in the summer.

Midfielder Stephen Lowry gave the move some thought but elected to stay with the Bannsiders.

Defender Kyle McVey had enjoyed nine years at his hometown club and was due to reap the benefits of a testimonial, but he adopted a very different mindset to his teammate.

McVey set about realising his Linfield dream by demonstrating his commitment on and off the training ground.

The centre-back travelled from Coleraine three nights a week to Belfast after finishing his work as a maturation operator at Bushmills Distillery and his thirst to be part of a new Linfield team convinced boss David Jeffrey to bring him on board with a one-year deal.

The 27-year-old made his Linfield debut in the League Cup win over Knockbreda and went on to face Glentoran, Ballymena United, Ballinamallard and the Bannsiders as well as a County Antrim Shield victory over Ards in which he grabbed his first goal for the club.

Now part of an effective centre-back partnership with Sean Ward, the Blues' new boy is eager to impress, but some Coleraine fans are still surprised he jumped ship.

"Linfield are the best club in Ireland and there is no better place to try and win trophies," said McVey. "I want to challenge for leagues and cups.

"When David (Jeffrey) spoke to me in pre-season my mind was made up that I wanted to play for Linfield.

"He played a big part in my move and the players have been very welcoming too. I think the manager saw me put a lot of work in on the training ground to build up my fitness and he saw a desire to play for the club.

"It's a joy for me to be part of a dressing room which is full of winners and players who have international caps too.

"There was some talk that Stevie Lowry was going to come to Linfield too but that never happened. You never know though, maybe he could come to the Blues in the future.

"The fact that I was going to have a testimonial at Coleraine made the move more surprising to some people, but I felt it was a time for a fresh challenge. The one big regret from my time at Coleraine was that I never won a trophy over those nine years. We got to three finals: the Irish Cup, CIS Insurance Cup and Irn-Bru League Cup, but never got across the line."

With six appearances so far in his fledgling Blues career, he's hungry to make a big impression on a Windsor Park stage that can manufacture heroes.

And the Coleraine man enjoyed some banter with his old team-mates at the weekend as his new side ran out 1-0 winners courtesy of a late Peter Thompson finish.

"It was very strange playing against my old team as I spent nine good years there and I still watch them when I can," he added.

"I know I've made a decision and I have to move on from it but it was only natural that I was a bit nervous against them at the start.

"I settled down and focused on my job and thankfully we got a clean sheet and the win.

"Coleraine played well and I'm grateful to everyone who has wished me well at Linfield including the players who have wished me luck.

"The support from the fans has been unreal too and I won't forget that."

After Linfield's rocky start, they are now on a roll and take on Glenavon at Mourneview Park this afternoon on the back of a five-game winning streak in the league.

"We had a tough start with our first four matches but things have started to fall into place," added McVey.

"Our last five league matches have been much more encouraging.

"I don't think we produced our best performance against my old club Coleraine, but we kept going and got our reward in the end.

"We have strikers in the team like Peter Thompson who can conjure up a late goal just when you think it isn't going to be your day.

"I'm thrilled to be playing alongside Sean Ward. He is a quality, experienced player – one of the best in the league in my opinion.

"We have a good partnership and understanding so hopefully we can keep it going."

Many observers feel this season's title race will go right to the wire and McVey agrees.

"Linfield want to have a say again after what happened last season," he said.

"The manager and players want a very different outcome this season and the boys are determined to perform a lot better than what they produced last season, finishing 29 points behind Cliftonville.

"That wasn't good enough for this club."

It was no barrel of laughs at Linfield last season, and this Bushmills Distillery employee can smell a happier ending.

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